There’s no better place than Queens to watch the leaves change color, feel the wind pickup, and no that soon there will be warm drinks offered. Johanna is home in Australia right now- but we are plotting and planning our next adventure. Stay tuned!
A couple weekends ago we cruised out to the last stop on the R train at Forest Hills-71st Ave to see what actually was at the end of the line. When talking about Queens, Forest Hills doesn’t really seem to come up. People talk about Flushing, Astoria, Jackson Heights- but not Forest Hills. Since at the time we were in the midst of a heatwave, we had put off making a weekend trek further out into the borough. We’d stayed home, cranked the A/C, and swore to each other that we wouldn’t use the oven, under any circumstances. But we felt obliged, we felt like we should, so we peeled ourselves off the couch and went.
First off- this is one of the NICEST neighborhoods I’ve been to in NYC. Nestled between Corona, Rego Park and Kew Gardens, stepping out of the station is stepping into a serene space, quiet and tranquil. Actually, I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. Deafening.
The first spot we hit was Emily’s Sugar Rush. Unfortunately, Johanna is not a fan of candies of the gummi variety, but lo and behold there was a wall of gummi candy that stretched the entire store. I filled my bag with gummi eggs, gummi chickens feet, gummi whales, gummie cherries, gummi… bears, you get the picture:
Afterwards we wandered around taking in Austin Street. We were hungry- yes- the gummi candy wasn’t going to satisfy me. We wound our way over to Jack and Nellie’s for brunch- unfortunately our meandering caused us to hit that dreaded time in all weekend brunch spots- changing the kitchen over. So instead, their extensive list of beers helped us power through.
After a tipple we wandered some more- it seems that FH has an abundance of green spaces- parks, lots transformed into gated gardens. Like many other neighborhoods, the streets have no rhyme or reason, but in this instance it’s a good thing.
Before heading back to Astoria we decided to try a bar I had heard of. I had read really good reviews of Dirty Pierre’s and it seemed too hard to pass up the opportunity to try a local dive bar. It’s a gem. Really eclectic, dizzying decor, cheap drinks and cheese balls. You really don’t need much more. After introducing ourselves to the bartender and a couple local patrons, the bartender hooked us up with some delicious samples of sangria. Apparently that’s something their known for, and after a couple of those babies, I can understand why. Definitely try it if you are every in the neighborhood!
All up, this is a fantastic neighborhood. If you’re looking to show that NYC isn’t a concrete jungle, this would be the destination.
Today we went on a Loukoumades ( λουκουμάδες ) hunt. Loukoumades (which I was corrected at least twice on the hunt), is a kind of fried dough soaked in sugar syrup, honey and cinnamon. All in all, it’s gonna be a lot of sugar. We needed something to relieve the eternal heat that has engulfed us.
Long story short, we came up empty handed. BUT, we were able to score some other items. We wandered over to Titan Foods to forage for any kind of Greek sweets. Titan Foods is pretty exclusive- anything Greek, anything remotely Greek, anything with a hint of Greek- they have it and it’s cheap. They’re the Greek superstore of Astoria. We’ve visited several times in the past, but this time I scoured the aisles in our search. I did find some good priced olive paste, but no, no Loukoumades. Instead, we hit up the bakery though for some Spinach and Cheese Pies:
We also grabbed a 1/2 pound of another Greek pastries Touloumbakia (that was freak out full of sugar and honey- this is definitely a gift for my Greek co-worker, I couldn’t finish a single one without feeling a cavity coming on). We made our way down the street to Ya-Ya’s Bakery, a place we pass constantly. This seemed to be the Parthenon of Greek pastries. A small bakery, floor to ceiling was packed high with pastries, some crowded into glass cases.
And they had the Greek Donut. There was no name for it, just Greek Donut. for $1.50 you could purchase a ring of fried dough coated with huge granules of sugar, the size of your head. We jetted to Athen’s Park to down the massive pastries.
So far, still no Loukoumades- but we did get all hopped up on other Greek delights. We’re gonna keep hunting until we get them, but until then consider our pastry tour of Astoria incomplete.
28th Ave. and Steinway just got a lot more… fresh.
The empty storefront that was previously Lil Joe’s Bar and Grill, and even more further back Luna De Juarez has gotten a new awning and fresh coat of paint.
Friday was the Grand Opening of Steinway Fresh Farm- an open-aired organic market that leans heavily on Middle Eastern fare. It was slow going, but once they got set up the places is fantastic. In the recent wave of more organic shops opening in Astoria, this one is welcome with open arms.
Not close to 28th and Steinway? Here’s a list of other organic markets in the area:
Ditmars and 31st Street: California Farmers Market
Broadway and 46th Street: Vitality & Health Natural Market
30th Ave. and 31st Street: Sai Organics
Broadway and 31st Street: Broadway Natural
Steinway and 31st Ave.: Organics for All
Broadway and Steinway: 24/7 Organic & Natural Food Market
From 10am-6pm, on Saturday and Sunday, a small corner of the LIC waterfront is transformed into the latest in weekend revelry- a Flea Market.
Long gone are the days of the flea markets where you would haggle over broken kitchen appliances or sifting through Barry Manilow LPs. These days the food and flea markets are a real venue for local artisans and food geeks can sidle up to one another and hock their wares.
This weekend we trekked out to LIC to see what all the hubbub was about. In a corner between all the industrial buildings the tents unfolded. We first hit up the food stalls to see what was happening- Asian BBQ, Empanadas, Baked pies. They really had a wide array representing Queens. I first hit up a South African street food vendor, Woza. I grabbed something called a Boerwors, which is braai (sauage) over pap (polenta) with a sweet tomato sauce.
While I was getting my Boerwor-on, Johanna grabbed a chicken and veg pie.
Since the weekend was a scorcher, really, cooling off with the lemonade from The Butcher Bar was quite the thirst quencher. Since it’s opening in Astoria, they’re really become a landmark in the the area for their grass-fed cuts of beef and sausages (also they cater, which methinks would be a good birthday situation).
We passed a few different stalls- a gentleman selling taxidermied squirrel skulls, robot emblazoned t-shirts and a lot of different kinds of jewelry. One good haul was that we finally got the Queens Map that we’ve been eyeing for the last couple of years. Score.
Before heading back to Astoria, we made another swing through the food stalls- the Peruvian manjares (baked empanadas) from Jessy’s Pastries were out of this world- flaming spicy chicken wrapped in a sweet pastry- couldn’t go wrong here.
Needed to make one more pit stop- Smoky Chan’s BBQ for the pulled Duck Sandwich!
Something that hit us big was the Horman’s Best Pickles stall- tons and tons of different pickles, and since we were having a dinner party later that day- we needed some of these pickles: A pint of the Spicy Sour and the Honey Mustard. Their only online currently, and only taking large orders- so you’ll have to stop by here for your pickle needs.
Summer is here- and that means a lot to NYC. Beaches are re-opened, all the bars dust off their patio furniture, BBQ pits are being rolled out. People are finding ways to get back to the rooftops of their apartment buildings and wondering how many people can be up their at once.
Also- trying to keep cool and trying to keep your cool.
We trekked out to Corona last weekend to hit up the Lemon Ice King of Corona. Many people may be familiar with it from the opening of King of Queens (yes, the CBS situation Comedy from yesteryear that paid homage to our borough). Corona has been of my favorite places since I volunteered at OpenHouseNewYork and had spent the day at the Louis Armstrong Museum.
The Benfaremo family have been serving up Italian Lemon Ices for some 60+ years. That’s 60+ years of squeezing all sorts of fruit and ice together to make a frosty concoction somewhere between a Snowcone and a… well, it’s like a thick Snowcone.
Johanna had the traditional lemon, while I went wild and had the grape. My infatuation for grape flavored anything goes back to grape flavored dubble bubble gum. Something about that artificial grape flavoring. Anyway, what better way to spend a hot day that watching a rousing game of Bocce and eating Italian Ices? There’s something to it.
And an extra treat, the King of Queens intro:
Time Out NY this week has a spread on the best BBQ Joints in NYC- and our borough has made their mark with 2 spots- Alchemy, Texas and The Strand Smokehouse. What better reason to come out and enjoy. New ‘Cue City!